Barameya felt transformed. The sun’s rays penetrated the lake’s waters, and everything appeared saturated and filled with colour. The gemstones glittered in the sun. Resting on the towers and the curved rooftops of the lakemaid palace, they appeared like a shining rainbow under water.
Her family and friends noticed that something was different about her. They smiled but did not ask too many questions this time. Barameya also didn’t feel like talking. She had work to do. She returned to the library, looking for books she might have missed.
Gareyth helped her search for the right books again. Barameya noticed that he looked at her in a different way too. There was a sparkle in his eyes and a smile on his lips. She wondered if everyone could tell how happy she was. But then again, she didn’t really care. They would all know eventually when she would break the curse and begin a life with Rheahal. For now, she enjoyed their curiosity, knowing that something must have happened but not knowing exactly what took place.
Barameya also didn’t really want to tell anyone right away. It was like a treasure, glowing in her heart and her inner lake. It was a new power, a newfound energy source, a beautiful memory that gave her so much hope and only belonged to her.
A moon’s cycle of research and reading passed by. Barameya began to practise spells that could summon starlight, sunlight, or more moonlight. But none of them seemed to fit the curse of the werewolves. She still didn’t know what exact spell she was looking for. It was despairing.
When the next full moon rose, she broke through the surface and transformed even quicker than the last time. Rheahal was already waiting for her. His body glistened silver in the moon’s light. His eyes focused on her as if she were the only being in the world.
He embraced her. Barameya fell into his arms, feeling his warm and strong body on her own. She couldn’t believe how she was able to endure an entire moon’s cycle without his touch.
She cupped his face in her hands and drew him close. A kiss she had been waiting for so long erupted like the sun’s fires on their lips. A sensation of magic, similar to the moon’s light, poured down Barameya’s body. It entered her heart, her inner lake, and every fibre of her being. With Rheahal it was sunlight and moonlight combined. His beard tickled her face like she imagined starlight tickling as it sparkled so far away in the night sky.
If she could only draw from their love, their shared light that energised their bodies with lust and desire. It would surely be enough to break the curse. Barameya drew away. Rheahal looked at her, confused.
‘Is something wrong?’ He breathed.
‘I can’t concentrate. I have thought about you all the time. But I also thought about the curse.’
‘There’s actually something I wanted to show you. I thought, if I showed you more about the wolfmoonkingdom’s past, maybe we could learn more about the nature of the curse.’
‘Then show me!’ Barameya said, and her green eyes lit up with excitement.
Rheahal took her by the hand, and together they walked through the dark forest. Barameya heard an owl singing somewhere in the thickness of the night’s silver shadows. She spied white wings, as if a ghost flew through the trees. She knew that Aralea was watching over them.
Barameya took the opportunity and told Rheahal everything she found out about the curses, the different kinds of light, and how they could lift the curse. He listened intently and asked her many questions about magic. She realised how little he knew about the ways in which magic worked. She enjoyed explaining it to him. He was a good listener.
Barameya would have been completely lost without Rheahal. He knew the forest inside and out. After a while, they reached the foot of one of the mountains. They had walked very far.
The lakemaid marvelled at the great structure of the mountain. She had never seen it up close. But right in front of them were more stones. They appeared much more fragile than the mountain rising behind the broken columns. At least this is what Barameya thought them to be. Where had Rheahal taken her?
‘This used to be one of the palaces of the wolfmoon kingdom.’ Rheahal explained, and Baramyea understood.
The columns, the intricate, broken structure were the ruins of a palace. Some of them appeared just as large as the lakemaid palace. This place must have been gigantic. In the moonlight, it looked mysterious but also somewhat sad. What stories would it tell? What would it reveal when the broken stones, corroding in the wind and weather, were able to talk?
‘Do you know what kind of palace this was? What purpose did it have?’
‘It was one of the smaller ones.’
Barameya looked at him with wide eyes. The ruins of this place already looked so big. If this used to be a minor palace, how big must have been the other palaces of the wolfmoon kingdom? Maybe they even rivalled the size of the mountains. Barameya wished there were more books or scrolls on the wolfmoon kingdom. The more she found out about it, more layers of a riddle began to evolve. It felt like swimming through underwater caves for the first time. When she didn’t know what they were and where they would lead her. Only that this one, the riddle of the wolfmoon kingdom and its curse, seemed to have no end. This way, with every detail and new fact she discovered it was also so much more magical. Like Rheahal. He was the embodiment of the wolfmoon kingdom.
Rheahal jumped on one of the stones and lifted Barameya up as if she weighed nothing. From up here, she could have a closer look at the remains of the palace and walk through the ruins of old. She was thankful for the moon’s light. There were intricate carvings that depicted wolves, women, and men. Some of them were transforming, others, wolves, and people, danced beneath the moonlight.
‘I wonder what their transformations felt like,’ Rheahal said. ‘I wonder if they hurt or felt magical.’
‘I am certain they felt good,’ Barameya said. ‘Tingling and magical. The way I transform.’
They continued walking through the ruins and reached a place that must have been a hall. Columns stood left and right, and in the front was an archway that was still intact. There, Barameya saw a light she recognised. It wasn’t moonlight, though. It was light sparkling in many different colours. Gemstones, like the ones Barameya had found in the caves so long ago, were set in the archway, decorating the stone like they decorated the lakemaid palace.
‘They shine like our stones,’ Barameya breathed excitedly.
She looked at them. They were sapphire, ruby, and emerald. A yellow stone was there as well, shining like the rising sun. There were empty sockets in the archway next to the stones. There must have been other ones too. But they must have disappeared long ago, probably around the same time when the beauty of this palace was broken.
‘So, that means that the lakemaids and the wolfmoon kingdom have something else in common except their love for moonlight,’ Barameya said.
She wasn’t sure if this discovery was important but it was peculiar. They were so different, yet, when it came to light, they shared so much.
‘I completely forgot that they were here,’ Rheahal said, and embraced Barameya from behind.
He pulled her close. She enjoyed the warmth on her back.
‘We must have found them thousands of years ago in similar caves, where you found yours.’
‘That’s very likely,’ Barameya whispered, not taking her eyes off the gemstones.
They fascinated her just as much as the ones she found in the cave. And somehow a new feeling has risen inside of her. As if she had forgotten something. Something she tried to remember but could not recall.
She only stopped thinking about this strange sensation when she felt gentle kisses along her neck until Rheahal’s beard tickled her ear. She turned around and wrapped her arms around Rheahal. She could feel his passion rising. She knew they couldn’t talk about wolves, transformations, gemstones, and lakemaids any longer. He wanted her, and she wanted him.
Once again, it felt as if Barameya and Rheahal created their own light within their hearts, pouring into each other, feeling so much more than light itself. Only once, when Rheahal held Barameya in her arms, kissing her neck, did she look up and saw the gemstones in the archway. They appeared to glow brighter, as if they could sense their love and passion. They were so much more beautiful than before. Blue, red, green, and yellow, shimmering like the colours of a rainbow. Barameya closed her eyes and lost herself in Rheahal’s embrace. But something in the back of her mind was lit up just like the gemstones, something like the beginning of solving a riddle.
When they were both exhausted, they lay on the ruins covered with moss, and above them stood the archway, a silent remnant of the past. It was completely quiet. It seemed as if the entire world was asleep except for the two lovers.
Rheahal rose abruptly. Barameya had heard it too. A twig breaking. Leaves rustling. Someone was moving towards the ruins.
‘Who is it?’ Barameya asked.
She looked at Rheahal. His grey eyes penetrated the thickness of the dark forest. He could see something she could not.
To be continued…